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Context

So I'm debating about buying a reflective umbrella to use and I was wondering if they are sturdy enough to survive being in a backpack. I know they have specialty cases, soft and hard, to hold them, light stands and other lightning gear but I don't hear about people carrying them in backpacks or bags that aren't specifically made to hold them.

I've been using lens pouches on lens and use normal backpacks to save money. When I'm not shooting I use the backpack as a backpack. I've done it with tripods and even light stands but not light modifiers such as umbrellas.

Question

Are umbrellas sturdy enough to survive in a backpack with light stands and lens in pouches? Can the same be said of other light modifiers?

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I know they have specialty cases, soft and hard,

The "special cases" are often fairly rudimentary canvas bags that just happen to be long and skinny, but they don't necessarily offer a lot of protection.

Are umbrellas sturdy enough to survive in a backpack with light stands and lens in pouches?

Think of a regular rain umbrella. A good quality lighting umbrella is approximately the same. Protect it from bending and heavy abrasion while it's in the bag and it'll probably be fine.

Can the same be said of other light modifiers?

The range of light modifiers is huge, so I don't think it's possible to generalize. A lot of them are mostly fabric, though, and should hold up fine in a backpack.

  • I've been my friend's hard case so I guess some can be good but most aren't? – unsignedzero Sep 8 '16 at 6:04
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    The point is: you don't need a fancy padded case if you're going to put the umbrella in a backpack where it will presumably benefit from some degree of protection anyway. You're probably overthinking this purchase. If it's going in a backpack, you're going to want a fairly small umbrella simply because a big one won't fit in any reasonable backpack. You can get a cheap 33" shoot-through umbrella which will fold down to around 24" for under $10. You'll probably want a stand and a bracket to go with it, but you'll still spend less than $35. – Caleb Sep 8 '16 at 6:25
  • I have the rest of it left. I just need the umbrella and you're right there. Thanks. – unsignedzero Sep 8 '16 at 6:40
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If an ordinary backpack is run over by a lorry, a lighting umbrella will likely not survive the ordeal. If the backpack never ever leaves the cupboard, survival odds are somewhat improved. Elsewise, there's one way to find out: empirically.

Durability is a second order factor when it comes to whether or not an umbrella [or any piece of kit] winds up in your bag as a matter of habit two years from now. It's more a matter of whether or not it's worth the bother of packing an umbrella along to the field, and that will come down to space and weight and risk of loss/destruction/damage versus the photographic results.

By which I mean that if the pictures are good, it may not matter if the umbrella winds up being a consumable. Every piece of equipment that goes into the field stands a chance of not coming back simply because there are lorries in the world, and perhaps, it may not be worth making plans to marry the first umbrella that comes into your life.

Good luck.

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    Empirically and anecdotally, I've often carried a small 24-inch (60 cm) shoot-through umbrella (with a couple of inches hacked off of the shaft) in a backpack over the last three years, and never damaged one while in the backpack... and only once during actual (ab)use. The biggest problem I've had is that they're pretty hard to clean once they collect a good amount of dirt. – junkyardsparkle Sep 7 '16 at 18:25
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Umbrellas and light modifiers are fairly robust, and most come with a pouch or cover. I carry all my umbrellas, light stands, and a lightbox in an old gym bag. The only issue I had was making sure to purchase lightstands that will fit in the bag. I leave them stored in the bag, and just grab the whole bag when I need to use external lighting.

I find that they are far too bulky to carry in my camera backpack, which is stuffed anyway. I do have a few popup bounce disks that I use to bounce light off 'human lightstands' when I don't want to carry all my gear. I use only speedlights anyway, so its not too bulky regardless.

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